Thursday, February 26, 2015

Coffee is Awesome in So Many Ways

When I was a young girl, I loved going grocery shopping with my parents. Walking past the deli and bakery, my eyes would dart back and forth, always looking for free samples of cheese or—on a good day—a cookie. Scurrying under the florescent lights, we would walk the aisles of the dry goods section, selecting sugars, flour, canned goods, and crackers. In this area of the store, I would gleefully scamper down one particular aisle, my eager nose inhaling deeply: the coffee aisle. I cannot remember a time when this smell did not appeal to me. I love the smell of coffee. I also love the taste of coffee. And I love the comfort and satisfaction of making a steaming cup of coffee to drink. Yet, every time I make coffee, I have a dilemma: what to do with the coffee grounds? As any good student in this technological age, I asked the ever-knowledgeable Internet. My coffee grounds could become garden fertilizer (for my non-existent garden), room deodorizers, or flea repellent for my non-existent dog. More often than not, coffee grounds would wind up in a piece of foil on my table to “deodorize the room,” or in my large cooler to keep that smelling like coffee, instead of the gross cooler-smell.

However, all of this changed the other day.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

That One Time When I Started Acting Like the Tenth Doctor

Yesterday, I made the capital mistake of senior year: Out of curiosity (and to see how long I can procrastinate on certain assignments) I looked ahead in my planner and counted how many weeks of school I have left before graduation. Umm…yeah, bad idea. All of a sudden, a rush of mixed emotions flooded my mind and heart. Excitement at graduating college, thrill at the end of homework, joyful anticipation of the Next Big Step (who knows where God will take us? We sure don’t!) sorrow at leaving all of the amazing people I have spent four years with, sadness at the dwindling number of commitments with my household. You know the famous, melodramatic exit of the 10th Doctor? Last night, I totally started going into that mode.  

BUT, I quickly tried to snap out of it. Realizing just how miniscule my time as a student is fueled me with a greater passion to live this life abundantly. I want to make each moment count; I want to live each day in a more epic way. Thinking about the coming end to my college career also reminded me about the importance of living in the present moment. Yes, I could go around campus super sad, continually thinking, “Oh, this is the fifth to last Rosary with my household sisters,” “Dear me, this is the fourth to last Wednesday morning in the hallway with my friends,” and other such thoughts. Again, think the exit of the 10th Doctor. If I did this, I would be totally living in the future, and not focusing on the current day that God is giving me. I choose to live now. God gives us each moment as a gift, and it is in the present moment that God wants me to follow my vocation as a wife and student. It is by living in the present moment that I can grow in faith, hope, trust, and joy.

Several years ago, when I was in high school, I worked at a pizza restaurant as the “register girl.” I loved my job, and saw it as a ministry that I got paid for. I loved speaking with all of the guests who came in. There were many people who came in regularly. One of these people was a tall man, who was probably in his late forties. Though I—embarrassingly—could never remember his name, he always remembered my name and asked me how I was doing. We would make small talk each time he came in, but one day, he hit me with something deep. As I rang up his order, he asked me: “AnneMarie, how are you always so joyful all the time?” I answered by explaining how I tried to live in the present moment, accepting whatever God sent me as a gift. In this, God brought me joy, because I tried to not live in past regrets or future worries. After I explained these things, the man nodded, thanked me, and moved along to acquire food from the buffet.

I continued with my work, stocking the salad bar, greeting new guests, and bringing up clean dishes. I noticed the man leave, and I figured that I would see him in about a week or so. After several minutes, while I was by the register, the man walked in again. Surprised, I jumped over to the register and greeted him again. With a determined stride, he walked over to the counter and pulled out two nearly identical watches; one was smaller and more slender, the other was larger and more bulky, but both had the same design. The man began to tell me how inspired he was by my words to him about the present moment, and he gestured towards the watches. Instead of numbers, each watch’s face had the words, “Now is the time.” The man explained that he  and a friend from his church had designed these watches. He wanted me to have one of them. Amazed and flooded with gratitude, I accepted the smaller watch. Ever since that day, I have worn the watch nearly every day (the watch band broke the other day, so I still need to fix it before I can wear it again). The watch is a reminder of this man’s amazing generosity. Furthermore, it is a continual, visible reminder to live in the present moment.

“For he says: “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
~2 Corinthians 6:2

God gives us today. He wants us to love in the present moment, to entrust our lives to Him totally. Let us live now.  

"We are to leave the past to divine mercy and to trust the future, whatever its trials, to God’s loving providence. Each minute of life has its peculiar duty — regardless of the appearance that minute may take. The Now-moment is the moment of salvation. Each complaint against it is a defeat; each act of resignation to it is a victory." ~Archbishop Fulton Sheen, From the Angel's Blackboard. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I Don't Give Up Chocolate for Lent

As I sit here typing, I'm savoring some Ghirardelli 60% cacao chocolate squares. 

I know, I know: it's Lent. But lately, I've heard or read comments where people will say/write something to the effect of, "I know it's Lent, but I need caffeine, so that's why I'm drinking this cappuccino right now." Or, "Yeah, I fail at Lent, and I'm an awful person, so I might as well just enjoy this chocolate and wallow in my lameness." 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Just Dance-Towards Epic Holiness

Happy Monday! I hope that you all are having a blessed, epic first full week of Lent! 

Last week, my former college roommate and her husband (and cute baby!) arrived on a visit from Canada. So, starting Friday evening, I barely touched my homework, and instead opted to party it up with my friends at Trinity Hall into the wee hours of the night/morning/whatever it was. Friday night was "Disney Friday," complete with The Aristocats and "Just Dance"(on the Kinect, which was exciting!) Saturday involved a dance party, becoming introduced to Promised Land milk (it is so amazing!!!!) and playing Legendary. Sunday included having people over for food and games, then heading to a birthday party at Trinity, with music, sugar, and Legendary: Villains. And in the mix of it all, I was reading Catholic Philosopher Chick Comes on Strong (I totally recommend this!!!! It's great!). So here I am, exhausted (getting out of bed 30ish minutes before my 10 a.m. class started today was a major struggle!), sore, but so full of joy and peace!

And as I sat with my husband in our Holy Hour yesterday, I was thinking about all of the blessings that God has dumped on us. Not only that, but the beautiful ways in which God sends reminders about walking in holiness through day-to-day activities. 

It was with slight trepidation that I walked onto the floor to play “Just Dance.” After all, I’m horrible at those types of games. I always seem to be a few seconds behind everyone else and/or I’m going the opposite direction! Still, I love parties, I love dancing, and I love having fun. Furthermore, all of us were going to look like complete fools, so why not give it a whirl? I had a great time, and to my surprise, I even secured first place on two of the songs! But the placing wasn’t even a crazy big deal, because we were all focused on having fun and goofing off. We would all throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the song and dance; then, after the song ended, we all enjoyed watching the video recording, to see just how outrageous we looked!

A bunch of us college students had a blast spending a large part of the evening tying to mimic a dancing figure on the screen. Whatever the dancing figure did, we tried to do perfectly. We knew that we looked silly many times, but that did not keep us from having a wonderful time. I would even venture to say that because we all were looking ridiculous together, that built an extra sense of fellowship.

Later on, I began thinking about this experience: If I could get so enthusiastic about emulating the animated person (or fruit. Or animal) on the screen—not caring about how weird I looked—can’t I put that same vigor into imitating the saints (REAL people) and God (‘cause He’s GOD!) to attain holiness?

That’s a scary thought. I mean, “Just Dance” is a game. You have an evening where you play, look like a fool, and have fun—and then it’s over. But when you actually try to imitate God and the saints, there are more lasting effects. Some of which may be very painful. In fact, one of my favorite mysteries of the Rosary is the Crowning of Thorns—especially because the fruit of the mystery is courage, something which I greatly lack and desperately need.

But wouldn't it just be epic if we all took this Lent to try and imitate God, living out His will in our lives? And just like my friends and I would laugh and watch the videos of us dancing, we’ll all get to look back and laugh with joy at how God worked in our lives for the sanctification of all people! Yes, we may look ridiculous in this dance towards sanctity and holiness. There are plenty of saints (for example, St. Bernadette) who looked outrageous to the world while they were following the will of God. One of the best books I’ve read in the past couple months was Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and  Network of Miracles, by Raymond Arroyo. This book includes an awesome quotation from Mother Angelica, a spirited woman who did God’s will no matter how crazy she looked (like starting a television network, though she knew nothing about that sort of thing):

"Unless you are willing to do the ridiculous, God will not do the miraculous…When you have God, you don't have to know everything about it; you just do it." ~Mother Angelica

Standing out from the crowd can seem scary. Even something as simple as praying Grace Before Meals while in public areas. Or something more intense, like refusing to partake in immoral entertainment or behavior while at a party. Ask God to give you the courage to step out and be willing to look ridiculous for Him. Let’s focus on how well we’re imitating God instead of worrying about how others may judge us if we witness to the Faith in public. Let’s just dance towards sanctity, following the movements of the Holy Spirit and God’s directives in our lives.

“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect." ~Romans 12:1-2

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ashes & Martyrs

HAPPY ASH WEDNESDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lent is here! One of my top favorite liturgical seasons! I'm really pumped. It's okay if you aren't pumped as well; I've met very few people who really get excited for Lent (but they do exist, I have met others who share my enthusiasm). It's been a quite splendid day thus far. I was blessed to sacristan with my husband at the 6:30 Mass on campus, which was awesome. Here at Franciscan University, the 6:30 a.m. Ash Wednesday Mass is always packed. It's a Mass that  most people can attend, since it happens before classes start. People who usually don't go to daily Mass want to get their ashes, so they pop right in. And, inevitably, there are students who decide to attend 6:30 Mass more often for Mass. So, instead of having 150-200ish people at the 6:30 Wednesday Mass, we had approximately 364. Thank the Lord for Liturgy Committee people who helped us figure it out! :)

Campus is so beautiful with all the snow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
After a quick stop at home, I was then extremely blessed to pray on a bench amid the gorgeous, beautiful, and amazing weather. And now I'm waiting for my class in Egan, relishing the beautiful joy and love of this day. Today we begin a glorious season of mortification, peace, and sacrificial love, preparing to enter deeply into the Passion of Christ. Today we wear ashes, publicly acknowledging our need to repent and the reality of our eventual death. Today we are witnesses to the redemption and mercy that God offers us. But this attitude can't stop when the ashes are gone from our foreheads. We need to be witnesses of God's sacrificial love each day.

Recently, ISIS beheaded twenty-one Christians. These people gave their lives for Christ. I am horrified at what ISIS did, and I am outraged that we live in a world where people continue to be killed for their Faith. Where is the justice in this?

I am also filled with joy at the love and faith of these martyrs. These people embrace the goal of modern sanctity: to live and die for God. Let us pray for their families, their friends, and the people who killed them. And let us imitate their sacrificial love and faith in God in our own lives each day!

I would like to close with the words of Pope Francis regarding this recent tragedy:
"I would now like to turn to my native tongue to express feelings of profound sorrow. Today I read about the execution Of Those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians. Their only words were: "Jesus, help me!". They were killed simply for the repute they were Christians. You, my brother, in your words the referred to what is happening in the land of Jesus. The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony Which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference Whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.As we recall These brothers and sisters who died only Because They confessed Christ, I ask That We Encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism Which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians."

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mercy Monday: Praying for the Will of God

A very happy Monday to all of you! 
I hope that y'all are having a blessed start to your week, and that the final days of Ordinary Time are going swimmingly! I have to run off to class in a couple of minutes (to give a paper presentation that I just finished a couple hours ago--senioritis this semester has turned me into a procrastinator! Scary!), so I will leave y'all with a really epic passage from St. Faustina's Diary which I found during Holy Hour yesterday. 

One day, a certain sister came to me and asked me for prayers, telling me that she could no longer stand things as they were. "And so, please pray, Sister." I answered that I would, and I began a novena to The Divine Mercy. I learned that God would give her the grace, but that she again would be dissatisfied when she received it. However, I kept on praying as she had asked me to do. The next day, the same sister came looking for me, and when we again began to talk about the same thing, I told her, "You know, Sister, when we pray, we ought not force the Lord God to give us what we want, but we should rather submit to His holy will." But she thought that what she was asking for was indispensable. Towards the end of the novena, the sister came again and said, "O Sister, the Lord Jesus has given me the grace, but now I am of a different mind. Please pray so that things will somehow be different again." I answered, "Yes, I will pray, but that God's will be done in you, Sister, and not what you want."  (Notebook 5, #1525)

May the joy of Christ fill your heart!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bertie Wooster and the Season of Lent

Last Friday, I perused the library shelves, looking for some entertainment to take my mind off of homework. After some deliberation, I decided on a TV show which I had never heard of, although our library had all four seasons on DVD. That evening, I popped in Jeeves and Wooster
, and found myself enchanted with the adventures of rich British people in the 1930s. Bertie Wooster is a rich, idle, fun-loving bachelor who spends much of his time playing pool at the local gentleman's club. In the first episode, Wooster is crashed in his rumpled apartment after a court hearing for his crime of stealing a police officer's helmet. Suddenly, Jeeves pops up on his doorstep. Jeeves becomes the valet for Wooster, and the few episodes that I watched followed their trials, tribulations, and joys. In each episode, Wooster finds himself in some kind of scrape, but Jeeves swoops in and saves the day. Granted, some of the ways in which Jeeves does this aren't the most ethical (he employs lying on occasion), but it is quite fascinating to see the cunning in which Jeeves takes control of crazy situations. As I watched three episodes Friday night, I found myself questioning the show: Why Wooster? Why does he always win? 

Wooster is spoiled, rich, and is not that productive in society. Problems arise, and he has no clue how to handle himself. And so he relies on Jeeves, who solves all of his problems. Why should Wooster, of all people, get such a special treatment? I know, that in my daily life, I've had this same question before. WHY should so-and-so have everything work out so perfectly? How many times have we all surfed Facebook and clicked through another person's pictures, wondering: why? I mean, I'm happy for them, but why doesn't anything this cool ever happen to me? And as I sat there, watching Jeeves and Wooster and traveling this train of thought, it hit me: this show was a perfect way to prepare for Lent. Seriously, it helped me to nail down an area of attack. A spot of my life that I don't have enormous problems with, but one that I must work to eradicate completely. Comparison.

Lent is one of my top favorite liturgical seasons. I love it. I absolutely love it. Yes, Lent is difficult and stretches me; I mean, I'm not the best at sacrificing and undergoing small mortifications. However, Lent is a wonderful time for me to focus on sacrifices and self-mortification and falling more madly in love with God. And then after the epicness of Lent, we get the extreme epicness of the Easter Triduum, which is my completely favorite liturgical season. But along with all of the epicness, there are a lot of temptations that arise during Lent each year. One of the biggest ones that I've noticed or experienced? Comparison. It can be so easy to compare ourselves to others:

"Oh, that person is doing way more sacrifices than me, ergo he or she is totally holier than me, and having a way better Lent than me." 

"Shoot, he's not doing anything compared to me. I'm so stellar when it comes to this fasting routine!"

"Seriously, I feel like I'm the worst at Lenten sacrifices, but everyone else makes it look so easy--they are all pros!" 

This Lent, fast from comparison. Let's stop comparing ourselves to others, and instead focus on loving them. Let's challenge ourselves to grow in love and sacrifice this Lent out of love for God--not our of pride in comparing ourselves to others. When I was a freshman in my household, there was a phrase that some of the upperclassmen women spread around like wildfire: Comparison is the thief of joy. How can you have true joy, fulfillment, and freedom when you are constantly ensnaring yourself with comparisons to other people? How can you have complete healing and peace in your life is you hold onto past events with vengeance, bitterness, and compare yourself to people in those events? Let's have true joy for others-and ourselves-and not worry about it. Not worrying about who is doing "more" for Lent. Not worrying about who is doing "less" than yourself.

God isn't comparing you to other people, so why are you comparing others or yourself? 

I hope and pray that y'all have an epic and blessed time of preparation for Lent. Take this week to actually think about your "Lenten Plan." If you need any ideas, I recommend checking out Catholic All Year for some coolness. May the joy of Christ fill your heart!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

In which my amount of homework keeps me from long digressions

Happy Wednesday! Since I'm battling a bad cold/mild sickness--and consequently, have much homework that I'm far behind on--I'm going to hit a few points to update y'all about the epicness I've been experiencing. Have a blessed, epic, beautiful day!

Me and my birthday cake! 
 I've officially been 22 years old for a week! Last Wednesday, I was blessed to turn 22 on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, which is awesome (it was also the birthday of Elijah Wood, who played Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. Which is awesome as well). I spent my day reading, eating cookie cake from a household sister, eating a birthday dinner (turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes), playing Dutch Blitz, eating Coca Cola cake, reading, and dancing to T-Swift. It was epic! 

Modern holiness epicness--Oscar Romero was officially declared a martyr. Jean Heimann has a pretty cool post about it, which is worth checking out. 

The Awakening of Miss  Prim. Read it. Just read it. This book has a timeless quality and is such a cute, fun, story! A modern woman takes a job in a small village where people escape the rush and craziness of life and many children have a Classical homeschool education. She learns about beauty and the joy and peace in small, everyday occurrences. This book is really hard to pin down; I guess I can say it's a partial story of a woman seeking purpose and beauty in the world.

The hymns of St. Ephrem are awesome! Amazingly beautiful! I especially love his Hymns on the Nativity. So much Eastern Catholic epicness :)

Yesterday, I took down our Nativity set.  Now, you may be wondering, "What, you still had your Nativity set up?" Yes, we did. It's an older tradition, and I think it is very fitting. Having our nativity scene up until Candlemas helped me to remember and contemplate the early childhood of Christ that led up to His presentation in the Temple. Plus, should we be in any hurry to take down our Christmas decorations??? (Because for some reason, most people rush to take down their Nativity sets. It's weird.)

The other day, Jacob moved the Holy Family
away from the shepherds and wise men.
Me: "Jacob, why did you do that?"
Jacob: "It's the exile to Egypt!" 

May the joy, peace, and love of Christ fill your heart!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mr. Darcy and God's Merciful Love

A few weeks ago, on the last Saturday of break, I decided to reward myself for (kind of) being productive on a couple of school assignments. How did I do this? By watching the five hour Pride and Prejudice while working on my latch hook rug. Yes, it was awesome. Extremely awesome. I love Pride and Prejudice, but I have not seen the five hour production much. A couple times over the past several years, but that's it. And I've absolutely loved it, but it's hard to find a five hour time slot to watch Jane Austen very often, especially when one is a full time student. Mainly, I've watched the Keira Knightley version, which is wonderful. Different from the five hour version, but excellent in its own ways. 

So, as I worked on my rug and sat amid many dangos, I watched the epic tale of Lizzy Bennet, her family, and her acquaintances. And, of course, that includes Mr. Darcy.  The viewer is pulled into the story as Mr. Darcy enters as a stuffy, rather awkward party guest and continues to transform into the literary hero that countless women and girls love. Usually, I get very caught up in the precious romance between Darcy and Lizzy, and watching P&P this time was no different. However, the biggest thing that jumped out at me was Darcy's actions regarding Lydia and Wickham's scandal. So let's take a look at some sections of the novel.